RBA won’t raise cash rate to cool housing

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)


Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe says raising interest rates to curb a heated housing market is not appropriate and would do more harm than good to the overall economy.

A new survey found almost a third of Australians would be happy to see interest rates rise to help cool the market.

While figures released on Monday showed the growth in house prices is slowing, national home values were 21.6 per cent higher over the year.

The CoreLogic report also showed that as of October, half of the nation’s capitals had recorded growth of more than 20 per cent over the past year.

But Dr Lowe said a rate rise is not on the central bank’s radar screen and he didn’t think it was appropriate.

“A lift in interest rates now would take some of the steam out of the housing market but it would also mean fewer people will have jobs and wages growth would be even weaker than it currently is,” he told a webinar following Tuesday’s monthly board meeting.

“That doesn”t sound like a good trade-off to me.”

Faced with this sharp deterioration in housing affordability, a survey by financial comparison website Canstar found 29 per cent of Australians think lenders should increase their interest rates to cool the property market.

The survey of 1280 Australians also found that while a further 22 per cent agree the market needs cooling, they did not believe hiking rates was the way to go.

Of this group, 36 per cent wanted to see additional support for first home buyers, 33 per cent wanted tougher restrictions on investors and 30 per cent called for making long-term tenancy more appealing through longer leases.

Canstar group executive for financial services Steve Mickenbecker said those supporting a rate rise should “be careful for what they wish for”.

“An increase in interest rates from today’s ultra-low levels will push many home owners into mortgage stress,” he warned.

For a residential borrower with a $500,000 loan on the average variable rate, a 0.25 per cent rate rise would see their monthly repayments increase by $68 to $2206.

The banking watchdog has already stepped in to moderate housing activity, increasing the minimum interest buffer it expects banks to use when assessing the serviceability of home loan applications.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority wants banks to assess applications at a rate three percentage points above the interest rate product being offered, rather than 2.5 percentage points previously.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said it was an important step in tightening up lending arrangements.

“It definitely won’t fix all the issues in the housing market,” he told ABC radio.

But he said Labor won’t be going to the upcoming election with the same policies around negative gearing as were taken to the last poll.

“We’ve had a good look at it, had a good think about it and decided to go down another track,” he said.


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